WASHINGTON — Walid Phares, a foreign policy adviser to Donald Trump’s presidential campaign, is set to be questioned in private Friday by the House Intelligence Committee as part of its investigation into Russian election interference, according to officials familiar with the panel’s plans.

Phares worked in Trump’s campaign alongside advisers George Papadopoulos and Carter Page, “both of whom had multiple contacts with Russian officials and their surrogates that they reported back to the campaign,” said Dianne Feinstein, the top Democrat on the Senate Judiciary Committee, in a letter to Phares last month.

Papadopoulos is cooperating with special counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation into Russian meddling in last year’s presidential election, and interactions with Trump associates. He pleaded guilty on Oct. 5 to lying to investigators.

According to one of Mueller’s court filings, at least two high-level Trump campaign supervisors, and other officials, were aware of Papadopoulos’ contacts and communications with the Russians.

The officials didn’t say what questions lawmakers want to ask Phares, now a Fox News analyst. But Feinstein’s Nov. 27 letter to Phares shows why the House panel is likely interested. She wrote that he reportedly was among Trump campaign aides who met with then-Russian Ambassador Sergey Kislyak at the Republican National Convention in 2016, along with J.D. Gordon, the director of the Trump campaign’s national security advisory committee, and Page.

—Bloomberg News


Rep. Devin Nunes cleared by ethics panel after complaint he divulged classified info

WASHINGTON — The House Ethics Committee on Thursday cleared House Intelligence Committee Chairman Devin Nunes of California of any wrongdoing after a complaint that he had disclosed classified information related to the House’s Russia investigation.

When the complaint was filed, Nunes said he would step away from leading the House’s investigation into Russian attempts to influence the 2016 presidential election, though he did not formally recuse himself.

In a statement, the Ethics Committee said experts it interviewed determined that the information Nunes disclosed was not classified.

“Based solely on the conclusion of these classification experts that the information that Representative Nunes disclosed was not classified, the committee will take no further action and considers this matter closed,” it states.

Nunes thanked the committee in a statement for “completely clearing me today of the cloud that was created by this investigation, and for determining that I committed no violation of anything — no violation of House Rules, law, regulations, or any other standards of conduct.”

—Tribune Washington Bureau


Assassins killed Panama Papers journalist with text message bomb

The assassins who killed Panama Papers journalist Daphne Caruana Galizia used a fatal text message sent from a boat out at sea, according to a report.

Authorities on the Mediterranean island of Malta arrested 10 people for the explosion last month that killed the lauded 53-year-old blogger known for her criticism of the government.

Three have now been charged, with a report in Malta Today this week revealing details of the investigation, including how they allegedly set off the powerful bomb on her car.

Brothers George and Alfred Degiorgio, 54 and 52, were joined by Vincent Muscat, 55, in the reported scheme, which involved an electronic device attached the explosive that was put on the vehicle the morning of the blast.

George Degeorgio, stationed on a boat out at sea, is alleged to have sent the text message to the device that triggered the killing after receiving a signal from his brother, Malta Today reported.

Seven other men, all of them Maltese, were released on bail as authorities continue the investigation into those already charged, who all have previous criminal records.

Galizia’s family has repeatedly questioned the independence of the investigation by authorities, who were often the target of her blog.

The slain journalist was most famous for using information in the Panama Papers leaks to allege illicit activity between the inner circle of Maltese Prime Minister Joseph Muscat and the ruling family of Azerbaijan.

—New York Daily News


Former US gymnastics team doctor Larry Nassar sentenced to 60 years in prison for child porn

A federal judge has sentenced Larry Nassar, the former Olympic team doctor accused of molesting dozens of young gymnasts and other athletes, to 60 years in prison on a separate child pornography charge.

The 54-year-old Nassar has pleaded guilty to additional molestation crimes in state court and faces sentencing in those criminal cases next month.

A number of famous U.S. gymnasts, including McKayla Maroney, Aly Raisman and Gabby Douglas, have said that Nassar assaulted them under the guise of providing medical treatments.

“He abused my trust, he abused my body and he left scars on my psyche that may never go away. … He needs to be behind bars so he will never prey upon another child,” Maroney wrote in a victim impact statement before Thursday’s sentencing.

Maroney placed blame on university and sports officials for not taking earlier action in regards to accusations involving Nassar.

Nassar served as a sports doctor for USA Gymnastics, Michigan State University and a gymnastics club.

“It is my hope that federal and state law enforcement agencies will not close the book on the Larry Nassar scandal after he receives his just punishment,” Maroney wrote. “It is time to hold the leadership of Michigan State University, USA Gymnastics and the United States Olympic Committee accountable for allowing, and in some cases enabling, his crimes.”

On Thursday in a Grand Rapids, Mich., courtroom, U.S. District Judge Janet Neff imposed the government’s recommended sentence, stating Nassar “should never have access to children again.”

Authorities discovered more than 37,000 images of child porn on Nassar’s electronic devices, The Associated Press reported.

—Los Angeles Times


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